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Starbucks My Classroom: Fearing Failure, Defeating Doubt, Summoning Strength

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So a couple of weeks ago I’ve pulled the trigger. I’ve decided to replace what is my traditional chemistry room now with a brand new flexible seating 21st Century Learning Space. I’ve decided to “Starbucks” my classroom. If you are new to the whole idea, please read my post “Starbucks My Classroom” Project: The Master Plan”, join the ride, and visit #StarbucksMyRoom on Twitter for information and inspiration.

I’ve given myself the summer to do it. It hasn’t even started yet. It does for me at 3:30pm Central Standard Time tomorrow. And then, the clock starts ticking. The countdown begins. And this time IT’S BIG.

I’m committed. I’m motivated. I’m energized. And, I’m scared….


Kristy Kruse Louden @kmkteach, a teacher from Michigan,recently blogged about wanting to Create a student-centered classroom space and wrote “it's a bit overwhelming to think about where I'm going to find all of the pieces I want and how I'm going to pay for them.”

This is a fear many of us face.

I face it too.

I applied for a grant: What if I was not compelling enough? What if my idea is not worthy in the eyes of the decision makers?

Fire code: “All furniture with cushions or padding must meet California Technical Bulletins 113 or 117. Most commercial furniture purchased meets these regulations. Typically furniture from residences does not. For this reason, any furniture staff want to bring into the school must be inspected for a tag that reads it has met the requirements for California Technical Bulletin 113 or 117.” Really?!?! This is an e-mail I got from our district’s safety officer. Donations will be tricky. I might get stuff and then have to throw it out.

I bought a house last year, have a toddler, daycare, diapers, so I have $0 to spend for this: What do I do if the grant doesn’t pan out?

What if…. What if…. What if….


A colleague approached me in our school hallway today with concerns about the “Starbucks room idea.” She’s a good teacher I respect who said that when she put a couch in her room it created discipline issues.

A teacher from my Twitter PLN messaged me recently that he’s “really skeptical (not cynical) about the whole Starbucks thing,” and that he questions “how much [my] students will actually learn in that set up.” This is someone I believe to be passionate about doing what’s best for students and a person I respect and whose input I value.

Both of the above situations involved thoughtful caring individuals and their valid concerns. I believe in what I’ve set out to do, I have the research and brain science on my side, I have supporters.

But I have doubt too. It’s there. In the shadows creeping. Trying to take hold. It teams up with fear. Fear brings on doubt. Doubt advances fear.

But they cannot win.


Look. I’m not about to tell you to power through fear and doubt, to clench your teeth and go, or to quit acting like a baby and grow a backbone. That kind of advice is bullshit.

I won’t say all these things, because I know that fear, doubt, and the anxiety they bring with them are caused by our brain doing it’s job. The mind cannot live without the body (though this may change sooner than we know), so our brain's #1 task is survival. The brain sends to the body the constant signals not to stick the neck out. “Keep it in the sand where it's safe” says our brain. And if we listen to it, no harm should come to us, because we risk nothing.

Problem is that with this approach we gain nothing either. And, it’s the 21st Century.

Ask For Help….

I told my students and coworkers what I’m doing. They are helping! I’ll use real names because I want to give them shout-outs and thanks. I got several nice large modern frames to put pictures in from Hollie. Joe gave me 3 former sewing machine tables, which can be used as end tables or computer stations. Lance had several of his students bring me 3 big group work tables with adjustable legs Friday. Courtney showed me a local Facebook group people put cheap or free household stuff on. I got hints from Kristin to look for stuff in our building too. There are a few people I’m forgetting now…. Thank you all!

Keep Your Eyes Open….

My wife, son, and I had to pick up a few camping items at Target yesterday.Somehow, I ended up in the furniture section. It turns out there are comfy reasonably-priced chairs, ottomans, and such that meet California Fire Code. I’m still spending $0 of my own, but I can start a crowdfunding campaign, apply for small grants, or beg my principal to pay for a few items to get me closer to my goal.

Expect The Unexpected….  

I received an email from a student at 10:51pm last night:

“Hi Mr. Cymermen

I have a counter height table with with 6 chairs and a leaf to donate to your classroom for next year if you were still interested in creating a Starbucks themed room; we were saving it for a family member who will not be needing it, so if you have an interest please let me know!”

Awesomeness. And I’m not talking about the fact that this female student misspelled my name :)

Make Progress....

I had a classroom with 36 desks and students facing me and each others backs. Now I have a few frames, tables, possibly chairs, and a head full of ideas. I don't know exactly how it will all look in the end. I have ideas, but I have no budget. If manna falls from heaven, I'll gladly accept it. If it does not, I accept the possibility that the room will be "work in progress." I will get it done, but I think it's important that we all take away the pressure of making it perfect right now. Everyone's school, situation, circumstances are different. Start small, medium, or large. Do what feels right. Just start.

Take A Hint….

The school year is almost over. I was in meetings all day today. I always forget what the acronym ATPPS stands for. The coordinator played a video to close it all out. Throughout the video, the presenter kept talking about diverse and inclusive classrooms and showed multiple pictures of the “Starbucks” classroom and crossed out pictures of traditional desk arrangements. Maybe we’re not so crazy after all :)

Have A Plan Now….

I have a never-ending list of things I want to do. I'm writing a book. I want to enjoy my family. I want to blog. Do crowdfunding campaigns. Implement other personal and professional projects. Ditch book. Digitize chemistry. I have stuff on top of stuff. It’s time to sit down and write down what, when, and how. Prioritize. Check out “Keeping It Simple” by Craig Vroom @Vroom6 for a plan to do this.

Have A Plan Later….

Educate yourself on flexible seating. Google. #StarbucksMyRoom on Twitter. The 4 C’s.  The ins/outs of collaboration. Group work lesson plans and classroom management. Engagement. PBL. More on all of these in the future.

Draw strength from the Universe. It gives us hints. We just have to take them. If you ask, it will answer. If you fill it with energy, it will spread.

Take small steps. Build on them. Gain momentum.

We all need support in this from those closest to us. Lean on them.

Remember that you’ll hear some words that will allow doubt and fear in, but there will be ones that energize you. Take the former into advisement, but focus on and draw energy from the latter. Summon Strength.

I want my students to enter the classroom next fall and be stunned. I want their minds to wander. I want our classroom to be the vehicle that transports us into the land of possibilities.

As my students enter next year, I want them to think: THIS WILL BE DIFFERENT.

What’s your dream?

Thanks for reading! Check me out on BAm! Sign Up for my Newsletter on the science of learning, teaching and learning strategies, and finding inspiration in the little things. And, you can always count on me to encourage others to ask questions, look for answers, and gulp life.

Remember: You Have the Power to Change the World (and Starbucks Your Room). Use It Often!

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Oskar is a Science, Engineering, and Learning How to Learn teacher and an author of the Crush School Book Series.

His professional interests are brain-based teaching and learning, flexible seating (#StarbucksMyRoom founder), social-emotional learning, social justice, and using technology to enhance learning.

He is also a fan of the Jedi order (and uses DA FORCE frequently), ninjas, and the superhero in all of us. He is on a Quest to Change the World because he can. We all can.

  • Guest
    Carmen Saturday, 18 June 2016

    I love this! I want to be in your classroom! I love your attitude! I love your questions and your willingness to try something different! I moved to flexible seating this last year and I can't imagine going back! My students were focuses, happy, engaged, hard workers! 1000% for sure your kids will be too!

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Guest Tuesday, 19 March 2019